The Prime Minister has today outlined major education policy changes, in the hope of ending the "pointless, nonsensical gulf" between the "so-called academic and the so-called practical varieties of education".

In a speech this afternoon delivered at a further education college in Exeter, Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out changes set to be introduced by the Government to offer a "lifetime skills guarantee" to help people "train and retrain at any stage in their lives".

Mr Johnson said that he want to end the "bogus distinction" between further education and higher education by making it easier for further education students to access a loan.

He added that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted major shortages in the country of skills in a number of sectors - scientific laboratories being one, which he added are vital for the current fight against Covid-19.

Mr Johnson said the Government wants to "help people train and retrain at any stage in their lives, and enable us not just to come through this crisis, but to come back stronger and build back better."

The apprenticeship system is set to expand, with reforms brought in to allow unspent funds to be spend more easily in support of apprenticeships - "not just in big companies but in the SMEs, where there's so much potential for job creation", Mr Johnson said.

"We want many more of these apprenticeships to be portable, so you can take them from company to company."

Mr Johnson spoke of ending what he described as the "nonsensical gulf" between further and higher education in the country, and said that it is "absurd" to value one more highly than the other.

Now is the time to end this bogus distinction between FE and HE," he said.

"We're going to change the funding model, so that it's just as easy to get a student loan to do a year or two of electrical engineering at an FE college as it is to get a loan to do a three year degree in politics, philosophy and economics.

"We will give FE colleges access to the main student finance system so that they're better able to compete with universities.

"In the coming years, we will move to a system where every student will have a flexible lifelong loan entitlement to four years of post-18 education."

Mr Johnson added that deficiencies in the country's education system had been highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Our economy has been shaken by Covid, and in the hand-to-mouth scrabblings of the pandemic, the shortcomings of our labour market and our education system have been painfully apparent," he said.

"In the last few months I've been touring labs where people, many of them young, are working flat out on testing samples.

"It requires an excellent grounding in lab techniques, and in the science.

"Every time I've been fascinated to find that a sizeable portion of the technicians are from overseas.

"Although I welcome that, because it's one of the glories of our education system, that it attracts so many people from around the world, we have to face the fact that at this moment, when we need them so much, there is a shortage of UK-trained lab technicians, just as there is a shortage of so many crucial skills."

Construction workers, mechanics, engineers and IT experts are all in short supply across the country, Mr Johnson said.

"Somehow, our post-18 educational system is not working in such a way as to endow people with those skills," he said.

"I don't for a second want to blame our universities. It's one of this country's great achievements to have massively expanded higher education.

"But we also need to recognise that a significant and growing minority of young people leave university and work in a non-graduate job, and end up wondering whether they did the right thing.

"Were they ever given the choice of looking at the more practical options that are just as stimulating, but lead more directly to well-paid jobs?

"We seem on the one hand to have too few of the right skills for the jobs our economy creates, and on the other hand too many graduates with degrees which don't get them the jobs that they want.

"It's time for change - for radical change."